Aligarh Muslim University has called the proposal to drop the word Muslim from its name preposterous, The Indian Express reported on Tuesday. In a formal response to the University Grants Commission in June, the varsity said the suggestion reflected an ignorance of the institution’s long history and unique character.
“The name of the university gives us an idea about its history, purpose and character and preserving the same is our bounden Constitutional duty,” AMU Registrar Javaid Akhter wrote to the government. “The committee incorrectly draws the conclusion that by renaming AMU as Aligarh University would instil secular values. One must recall that in India the concept of secularism arises more from the discourse of justice and equality than from an anti-religious position mostly practised in the West.”
A government panel made the recommendation in April 2017 after an audit of the university. The panel was among the five University Grants Commission-appointed committees set up to inquire into allegations of irregularities at 10 universities. The panel had suggested that the varsity should either be called “Aligarh University” or be named after its founder Sir Syed Ahmed Khan.
However, the Centre clarified in October that it had not asked Aligarh Muslim University and Banaras Hindu University to remove the words Muslim and Hindu from their names. “The government has not made any decision to change the names of AMU and BHU,” Union Minister for Human Resource Development Prakash Javadekar had said.
The panel had also recommended that the process to select AMU’s vice chancellor be tweaked to align it with the appointment procedure followed by other central universities. At present, the university’s Executive Council shortlists five candidates and forwards their names to the AMU Court, which in turn selects three names and sends it to the HRD ministry. The president then appoints one of the three finalists.
In its letter to the Centre, the university defended this process. “...It is in line with top class world universities who have all the freedom and autonomy to choose their own V-Cs best suited to them,” the varsity said.